Colourful Valparaiso is a captivating town full of wonder and creativity. The Old Town is filled with intriguing murals created by local street artists, while the steep hillsides are crowded with brightly painted corrugated-iron buildings that bustle for space and conceal snaking alleyways and plazas. The city is a manageable size to explore on foot, and the effort can be lightened by taking a rickety journey on one of the creaking funicular railways which slowly ascends around the city to various viewpoints.
Once a lavish playground for the rich, Valparaiso’s port was considered an attractive break on the principal Cape Horn trade route. The prosperous city gained a healthy reputation and quickly became a place to be seen, consequently housing magnificent buildings including sumptuous hotels and top-class eateries. The completion of the Panama Canal led to a dramatic reversal in fortune; the steep decline in visiting ships meant money stopped flowing into the city, which quickly took its toll. Shells of these former grand buildings and half-completed hotels were abandoned and left to decay. Although Valparaiso could not be described as beautiful in the traditional sense, it is undoubtedly fascinating to see the absurd remnants of the mixed economic fortunes of the last century.